MAGNOLIA – The Montgomery County Grille has it all: steaks, seafood and spirits, but not the drinking kind.
From bodiless shadows, tugs at apron strings and random temperature changes within the old rooms, restaurant employees have experienced it all from the yellow house’s friendly ghost.
Paranormal explorer Gabriel Morales plans to visit the establishment Feb. 4 with his crew to seek out any unseen residents.
“Something has claimed this house and they’re not leaving it,”said Cindy Love, the restaurant’s co-owner. “They’re allowing us to be here, and they’re letting us know that.”
Several employees have experienced “haunting” during and outside of business hours since the restaurant opened in August 2011, including cook Tracy Caballero. A Hawaiian native, he said he has an understanding of the supernatural and does not feel threatened by the presence he has felt in the old house.
“On a Sunday (when I was alone) I was in the bathroom and saw footprints crossing the stall from under the door, but no one was there,” he said. “Another time the swinging door in the kitchen swung all the way open, then slowly shut without anyone touching it.
“I never feel threatened, though, but just that it’s letting me know it’s here.”
His encounters usually occur when he is alone before or after a shift, Caballero said, when the spirit feels “less threatened.”
The yellow house, built in 1910 by Calvin Yon, has had several owners who have experienced unexplained instances, but there are not any records of extraordinary occurrences in the house, said local resident Celeste Graves.
“I’ve heard a lot of things about the house, but never heard anything directly from someone who lived there,” said Graves, age 92.
Because of the lack of knowledge of the house’s history, the grill’s owners are eager to see if the house has a significant past that causes a spirit to linger, or, to put the rumors to rest once and for all.
“People have heard it’s haunted, but no one knows anything for sure,” said co-owner Todd Anderson. “I really want to be able to say, ‘Yes, it is,’ or ‘No, it isn’t.’”
Although Anderson or Love has not heard any complaints or comments from guests about a paranormal experience, one employee reportedly encountered the unexplained during an evening shift, as she served customers their food.
“Two months after working here, it was a really slow night, and I had one table,” said waitress Shannon Hollis of Houston. “I was giving people their plates and felt a tugging on my apron strings. But when I turned around there was no one there. I walked over to the computer in the kitchen to put another order in, and felt the same thing.
“I didn’t feel scared, but no one could do that and get away that fast.”
To possibly find an answer to the many questions surrounding the Montgomery County Grille, Gabriel Morales plans to bring his best equipment and crew, including paranormal-sensitive individuals.
“I consider myself an open-minded skeptic,” said the Houston native. “I don’t automatically assume something paranormal is happening, and I try to find a logical answer first.”
A background in psychology gives Morales a desire for the logical, but he admits anything is possible, which is why he brings individuals who can gauge the energy and presence of spirits in a specific area, not “psychics.”
“I like to keep things open for interpretation, and that’s one reason I don’t want to bring a psychic who would try and talk to the spirits,” he said, “because that’s just really hard to prove. I just want a person with really good intuition.”
Among the various instruments Morales will bring are infrared camcorders for recording movement in the dark and voice recorders that can catch electronic voice phenomenon.
“They pick up voices you normally don’t here,” he said. “The theory is spirits try to reach out by imprinting their voices on tape magnetically.”
Regardless of the outcome, Love said she is excited for her restaurant to be stripped for spirits.
“We invite those who believe,” she said, “and those who don’t believe to come and find out with us.”